By Aadil F. | Chief Marketing and Development Officer | AFS Intercultural Programs India

AFS conducts orientations before, during and after the exchange programs. Throughout the orientations, we urge exchange students to practice mindfulness. We are often asked the question – “What is mindfulness, and how do we practice it?”

Mindfulness is easy to understand but takes time to practice. It is about being keeping your attention active in the moment and be conscious about where one is and what one is doing. Mindfulness requires you to engage your senses fully and push yourself to return to the present moment even though your mind drives you to ruminate over the past or the future. It’s a process where you learn to train your mind and regulate to control it. Cambridge Dictionary describes mindfulness as the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm. 

A recent study done by the researchers of Boston Charter Research Collaborative – a partnership between the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University (CEPR), MIT and Transforming Education – underscores the importance of mindfulness education and how ‘self-reported mindfulness correlated significantly with better academic achievements and behavioural outcomes’. The research study was done with the students of sixth grade to study the impact of mindfulness education on students’ attention and stress. The eight-week study showed that students who were given the mindfulness training learned how to deal with a stressful situation and focus on developing sustained attention. The paper brings clarity on the role and function of mindfulness in education with recommendations for integrating mindfulness in the classroom. Here are few selective recommendations from the paper that schools can integrate to design their own classroom-based mindfulness programs: 

  • Help students and educators learn more about the theory and science of mindfulness – provide them with resources to learn the common language of mindfulness. 
  • Mindfulness is taught ‘from the inside out’. When teachers get the right kind of training and practise mindfulness themselves, they may become more emotionally supportive and engaged with the students as well. Adding mindfulness curriculum can help overall. 
  • Give time to students to practise mindfulness. Help them realize and understand the concept of self-awareness, empathy, acceptance, emotional intelligence etc. 
  • Reach out to experts and instructors who can design a session for the students and educators about practising mindfulness in the school. 
  • Integrate games and activities that teach mindfulness. For e.g. mindful journaling, understanding one’s senses and noticing emotional state etc. 
  • Creating a ‘mindfulness room’ or ‘mindful corner’ for reflection and to practice mindfulness
  • Look for toolkits available online that can help one develop and integrate mindfulness as part of the education

AFS has 16 educational goals that help students learn new skills such as understanding the concept of self-awareness, creative thinking, empathy etc. All these goals are divided into 4 realms: Personal, Interpersonal, Cultural and Global — helping students to be a better version of themselves through experiential learning. 

Adding mindfulness in education is an important task as being conscious about the present can help students focus on the current reality and build a better today and tomorrow. A good education with mindfulness curriculum can help students learn the art of sustained attention and helping them maximise their learning. The mantra which one should adopt to practice mindfulness is “Breathe. Observe. Reflect. Regulate”